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Trade Framework Bill Enhances Congressional Oversight

WASHINGTON, D.C. – June 15, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — Congress gave itself additional influence and oversight on international trade Friday, as the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass strengthened parameters for U.S. trade agreements.

This vote would authorize a new Trade Promotion Authority – a legal framework for how the United States goes about reviewing and ratifying trade agreements. Under the plan, Congress retains its authority to approve any trade agreements but also gains additional fail safe mechanisms to prevent trade agreements it deems unsuitable.

U.S. Representative Martha Roby (R-AL) voted with a strong majority of Republicans to approve the Trade Promotional Authority (TPA), saying the framework will lead to better trade agreements that benefit Americans.

“Trade with other countries is good as long as it’s fair. We want Alabama products to be sold in growing international markets and ensure America builds its economic advantage globally. With China’s economic emergence, that’s as important as ever.

“But, I don’t want President Obama having unilateral trade authority. I want strict checks and balances from Congress, as well as a multi-layered mechanism to shut down bad trade deals. That’s why enacting the Trade Promotion Authority is important. TPA empowers Congress to hold this President accountable for presenting the strongest trade agreements possible, and if he doesn’t, we can strike them altogether.”

Roby said an abundance of misinformation caused significant confusion over what the bill actually does. That led her to spend extra time carefully studying the plan this week, she said.

“Some of the rumors out there have been pretty alarming, so I went and spent extra time studying the bill for myself. Despite some of the widespread misinformation out there, I’m confident TPA puts us in a better position to approve good trade deals and stop bad ones, all in a transparent way.”

While most opposition came from anti-trade Democrats, a handful of Republicans did not support the TPA. However, overall the plan has received broad support among conservative lawmakers, organizations and opinion leaders, including Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), Governor Scott Walker (R-WI), Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), the American Conservative Union, the Cato Institute, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board and columnist Charles Krauthammer.

The president is and has always been responsible for negotiating trade agreements with foreign countries. However, Congress has seen fit over the years to enact parameters for how potential agreements are reviewed and ratified. First passed in 1974, the last of these TPAs expired in 2007 under President Bush.

Currently, the United States is seeking a major trade partnership with Pacific nations, the importance of which has been increased by the emergence of China and Russia. While reauthorizing a TPA would facilitate the ongoing negotiations, Congressional Republicans believed any new trade procedures must allow for greater accountability and transparency.

Under this new TPA, Congress sets the U.S. trade objectives, must be consulted throughout the process, can read negotiating texts and has the final say on trade agreements. Both the House and Senate are afforded multiple mechanisms by which they can shut down trade agreements they deem unsuitable. Also, any proposed trade agreement must be made available to the public prior to its consideration in Congress.

H.R. 1314 was passed by a vote of 219-211.